Jun 15, 2013; Houston, TX, USA; Chicago White Sox left fielderJordan Danks
(20) is picked off of second base for the final out against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park. The Astros defeated the White Sox 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
The White Sox actually exceeded their season scoring average on Sunday thanks to a two-out, two-run, ninth inning home run off the bat of Alejandro De Aza, who continued his unexciting but steady chug toward mediocrity and raised his season batting line to .268/.315/.424. Not good, but playable. If only more fit that description.
It was too late for De Aza to change the result of another doomed game and far too late for him to replace the indelible image of the weekend–a White Sox offense and defense so miserable as to render the brilliance of Chris Sale irrelevant against the worst team in the American League.
Or maybe it was Jordan Danks getting picked off second base to end things Saturday night–there was a lot of competition in a three-game stretch as embarrassing as the Sox’ three losses in Houston.
The Astros’ de-facto staff ace Bud Norris starts the finale of the oddly-placed four-game set Monday, which hints at the larger theme of the season: everything could still get worse.
ERA, FIP, xFIP, WAR; feel free to pick a measure by which the Astros pitching staff is the very worst the American League has to offer, and the Sox have punished them to the tune of eight runs in three games. Any team can have bad three-game stretch, but the White Sox stopped being deserving of such qualifications a long time ago. The case against them is not being built anymore. This is just a firm reminder.
The team is not transcending its offensive struggles, either. After the first week of May, the White Sox were handed a cushiony slate of schedule that has included 26 games against losing ballclubs like the Mets, Angels, Twins, Marlins, Cubs, Mariners, Blue Jays and Astros. I called it “a fine time for the White Sox to prove themselves.”
They have gone 11-15 against these opponents.
The Sox are 10 games under .500 with 19 games against division-leading Detroit remaining, six games against the division-leading Yankees remaining, seven agames against AL Wild Card-leading Orioles, a series against the division-leading Braves and fun trips to Boston and Tampa Bay thrown in alongside thorough tests of how much better Cleveland and Kansas City are this season. A objective assessment would be that the Sox need to play a lot better and against far tougher competition. A more subjective comment might be that they have not even begun to be completely screwed.
Everyone in the locker room is still keeping with the notion that these struggles are perplexing and inexplicable, but Adam Dunn notably defended the White Sox talent level.
"“Since Day 1. … I’m speechless. I don’t know why our offense is sputtering. We got the talent and everything in place. We’re not producing.”…“Our pitchers are going out there and keeping us in every single game, especially late in the game,” Dunn said. “We have opportunities late in the game to tie it or go ahead, and we’re not getting that knock.”"
Dunn’s second point was pertaining to the prevalence and lack of success the White Sox have had in one-run ballgames. Since the White Sox have appeared in an MLB-high 25 one-run ballgames and gone only 10-15 in contests that are theoretically toss-ups, Dunn has a point, but not an earth-shattering one. Even luck in close games would only make the Sox two or three wins better and knowing that they should have been able to split the difference with the dregs of the league is little comfort.
Emotion-based decisions are how Nick Swisher gets traded to New York in exchange for Cream of Wheat, it’s still not time yet for any actual definitive action to take place and it’s clear after all these years that the realities of running a business staffed with humans means that my thirst for a purging overhaul will always outpace what is feasible. But when the front office is making its midseason decision of what this team is capable of, this weekend will offer itself as a hard image to shake away.
Here’s hoping they don’t try.
Follow James Fegan on Twitter @JRFegan